Dental Development

An Infant’s New Teeth

The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.

Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems – hence, the need for regular care and dental check-ups.

Why Primary Teeth Are Important

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.

Infant Tooth Eruption

A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums – the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order varies.

Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth – 32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).